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TECHNOLOGY AS A LIFELINE FOR ADVOCACY – Samuel Folorunsho

In the drive to promote inclusion, transparency, human rights, and social progress, civil society organizations must take full advantage of innovative technology solutions to increase their impact. With technologies like Short Message Service (SMS), tracking, data analytics, and social media, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) can effect more change and strengthen their advocacy. The use of such technologies enables CSOs to collect large data, which in turn provides an advantage to work with governments and other organizations in directing programmatic changes.

For instance, YIAGA AFRICA has been building citizens confidence in the electoral system through its Watching The Vote project, using technological tools like SMS and evidence-based research methodological tools like Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT) for election observation. As many more individuals and organizations that aim to influence decisions within political, economic and social systems emerge, technology has become a key factor for them to meet their mission.

The popularity of Social Media as a reliable technological tool for mass advocacy cannot be overstated. This is especially because it is an interactive mode of communication; CSOs use it as their primary communication platform to inform and mobilize their target audience to act on an issue. Through this medium, the target audience is also capable of giving them immediate feedback.

According to the 2018 Global NGO Technology Report,” 93% of NGOs have their own Facebook page and 77% use their Twitter Profile effectively. “#SurvivingRkelly”, “#BlackLivesMatter”, “#MeToo”, “#NotTooYoungToRun”,  are some of the hash tags that have trended on Twitter and Facebook, and are still trending worldwide on the basis of social media immediacy for feedback —its capacity to include personal focus and multiple cues (visual or auditory) during communication.  Apart from these, there are many other remarkable benefits of using technology to achieve advocacy for a cause. Some of these benefits and model organizations include Credibility; for instance, the WatchingTheVote initiative of YIAGA AFRICA is designed to promote credible elections by providing citizens with an oversight on elections throughout the electoral cycle. #WatchingTheVote relies heavily on the use of SMS technology to provide real time election updates that validate the credibility of election results as well as elicit real time response from election stakeholders before, during and after elections.

Accountability is another area where technology has been very useful; for example, Budgit has been able to use technology to track the implementation of government projects by creating a platform that enable citizens to report and share updates about ongoing projects in their community. Layered on Open Data and integrated with existing social media tools, this has enabled people to share comments, photos, videos, and documents on existing projects.

Youth Inclusion has become a general issue of national discourse with movement like #NotTooYoungToRun andReadyToRun dedicated to inspiring young people to run for elected office, it serves as a resource database for young men and women aspiring to run for office by providing training opportunities and mobilizing support and resources for young candidates.

Many self-organized grassroots networks have sprouted up to provide resources and rapport for their target audiences, they can make use of technology as some of these organizations have done powerfully and effectively. In other words, many more civil society organizations should take this as a cue to make use of tools that will assist them in increasing the effectiveness of their campaign and projects. This will ultimately help them to reach more people and gather more meaningful data for impact and growth.

Samuel is the Information Technology Officer of YIAGA AFRICA  Twitter @folomic

Violet Ibeh presenting WTV hour with guest Cynthia Mbamalu

2019 Elections: YIAGA AFRICA Commences Election Radio Show

Ahead of the 2019 General elections, YIAGA AFRICA through its Watching The Vote (WTV) project on Wednesday, a radio program to engage Nigerians on the need to participate actively in the electoral process. The Radio program tagged “Watching The Vote half hour” was flagged off on Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) in Abuja and aired on other FRCN stations across Nigeria.

Speaking during maiden edition of the program, Project Director Cynthia Mbamalu said the program became necessary because citizens should participate in the electoral process from an informed position and thus information about the electoral process should be disseminated to the public accordingly. She further said, the project is out to provide timely information on both the pre-election environment and the election day activities in order to counter misinformation and rumours.

According to Mbamalu, Watching the Vote is the largest citizen movement committed to credible elections in Nigeria and they are committed ensuring that Nigerian’s votes count. She said, “We are deploying the largest number of observers for the 2019 general elections. For us, it is more than just watching the electoral process, it’s about ensuring that our observation will help reduce violence. That way we can build early systems against electoral violence.”

Electoral violence has historically been a major factor hindering valid statistics during elections in Nigeria. It is also a factor that causes widespread apathy among citizens. “For example, when observers signal an electoral threat across the nation, our Long Term Observers across Nigeria will report and we will be escalate it to necessary authorities in other to nip it in the bud,” she explains.

During the 30 minutes show, Mbamalu highlighted that the Watching The Vote team will deploy 3034 Polling Unit Observers for the 2019 Presidential elections while also deploying 822 roving observers to report critical incidents. Polling Unit observers according to her will report election day activities like arrival and set-up, accreditation and voting, sorting, counting and announcement of result. This according to her will be reported to a special database and will enable Watching The Vote verify the accuracy of results announced by electoral commission.

She also highlighted the advanced methodology that will be used for sample polling units to be observed on election day is called the Parallel Vote Tabulation (PVT).

“The PVT uses statistics and draws a sample of polling units which determines which polling unit observers will observe from on election day. The beauty of the PVT is that we cover every local government area. So for the elections, all those areas will be covered; we are not just going to focus on the cities,” she said.

“While we remain a non-partisan organisation we partner with all election stakeholders in a bid to disseminate information and recommendation and we look forward to providing a platform for Nigerians to engage other stakeholders in the electoral process,” she concluded.